Five Wide: 2023 Week Seventeen

By Thomas Willoughby

Happy New Year, folks. I’m certain by the time this is out the sheen of 2024 has worn off, but I let me be the last to wish you a happy new year, nevertheless.

This is it, now. You’re either in, or you’re hoping for a miracle. Controlling your own destiny is what you want this weekend.If you don’t have it, just win and hope for the best. You’ve had your chance to make this your own, and didn’t take it. Start praying.

Temper Tepper

Can’t imagine being an owner of an NFL team is easy, not least one that has been constantly appalling since you stepped in as its custodian. The 2023 season has been a pretty horrid one for David Tepper and his Panthers, but, in their 26-0 defeat to the Jaguars, he let the bottled-up frustration spill over. Literally.

It’s unclear what exactly prompted him to lob his drink at a Jaguars fan. But, as Pro Football Talk has pointed out, Tepper’s actions violated the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy. At the very least he’s getting a fine, likely towards the top end of six figures. What I want to know is: what is the record speed for a sports team owner having their team taken away from them? I know for sure there are Panthers fans out there praying the NFL comes down on him that hard.

Joshua Bessex-Getty Images

Miami Don'tphins

The Miami Dolphins season has been wild. I feel like we’ve covered the entire spectrum with them this year. Only a few months ago we were talking about them as we would a top-tier outfit, and they’ve slowly been eroded into a side we’re not totally convinced can win their own division. This Sunday further muddied their waters. Who are the Miami Dolphins? I don’t know, mate!

Still, not for the first time this season, they’ve written themselves into the history books. They’ve become the first team since 1956 to score and concede more than 55 points in a game, in a season. Clunkily worded, yes, but fascinating nevertheless. And totally emblematic of what sort of year they’ve perceived to have had. Granted, the Ravens are a really good team (and I think they’re the hot side going into the playoffs), but if you’re losing by 37 points now, why should we believe you can fix that in a fortnight?

Michael Owens-Getty Images

Good Lord What is Happening in There?

What a weird season the Vikings have had. They’re still in the race for a playoff spot, despite having gone through about 40 quarterbacks this season. They went into last night’s game knowing they held their destiny. Two wins, and they’d book a date for the second weekend of the month. In their way stood a divisional rival, themselves in the same situation. The Vikings needed every edge. They needed their fans to be loud. And there was only one man capable of whipping those fans into a fervor.

They were soundly beaten. It wasn’t even close. The Packers came in, had the game wrapped up by halftime, and left the Vikings cringing knowing their final memory of 2023 would be topless Kirko trying to get the crowd going. 

The Vikings have a 3% chance of making the playoffs. They’ll shuffle the deck again and hope to find a winning formula for Sunday’s trip to Detroit, but need help from just about everywhere else to sneak in. Shirtless Joshua Dobbs under center ought to do it.

Overhaul Required

The standard of officiating in the NFL is appalling. There are no two ways about it. Seems every fanbase across the league has the same conversations within themselves every game without fail. Glaring inconsistencies play to play, let alone week to week, and that level is ultimately causing teams to lose games, in some instances. Such as with the Lions this week.

You’ve all heard this story countless times this week, and the Lions have every right to be aggrieved. There are multiple angles showing Decker going to the ref to report himself as eligible, and it’s crazy we’re even having this conversation.

It’s been clear for years that NFL officials need to be full-time NFL employees, rather than working the league as a side hustle. More than that, the league needs to make it easier for their referees to do what they’re supposed to do. There are billions of dollars floating around the league, a case of (seeming) mistaken identity shouldn’t be happening.

The Cannenning

With this being a Wednesday column, I’m aware that the next edition will be out after the season’s final weekend. So I thought I’d have a bit of a stab to end this week’s piece. The Monday after the final weekend in the NFL is known colloquially as “Black Monday”, because of the volumes of firings that take place. And yer man has the inside track. Here’s who’s getting canned:

Bill Belichick, New England Patriots
Ron Rivera, Washington Commanders
Dennis Allen, New Orleans Saints

On top of that, you have vacancies in Las Vegas, Carolina, and with the Chargers, and you’re looking at 6 new Head Coaches in the 2024 season. Arthur Smith of the Falcons should be on this list, too, but I get something of a feeling the Falcons top brass are just dumb enough to believe it can work with another QB at the helm. Look forward to coming back to this next week and seeing where we went wrong.

Features Image Credit: Adrian Kraus-AP Photo

Thomas Willoughby